For Pride Month: A Blessing On Transitioning Genders

Photo by Jas Min on Unsplash
Photo by Jas Min on Unsplash

            In recent weeks we have been asked to look at the issue of what some call the “new” Jewish grandparent. One of the issues that has emerged currently is the reality in many families (mine included) of being a grandparent to a grandchild who is trans. This is not any type of political statement. There are enough of those in too many states now. Rather, this is a statement about love, kindness, and acceptance.

            For some reason, this issue has engendered aspects of fear. It ties into the overall issue of how some in our society see some people as the “other”.  The LGBTQ community has experienced this for ages. The trans community is part of this issue of perception and “otherness”, yet, for many of our families, these are our flesh and blood, our grandchildren, our legacy. Some who may be reading this may wonder if our contemporary Jewish tradition has, in any way, spoken to this issue. I wanted to write this to bring to you one aspect of how our contemporary community has looked at this issue. I refer to a blessing for transitioning which is found in a book called KULANU which we published during the days of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns which I was honored to direct.

            KULANU was subtitled “A Program and Resource Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Inclusion”. When the URJ ended all the program departments, our department’s publications were also discontinued. Some of these books may reside in the library of your rabbi or may be available on Amazon. The contents of the book include most of the relevant resolutions of the Reform Movement on LGBTQ issues, a variety of rituals that reflect on many life cycle events, and personal stories. In the ritual section is the “Blessing for Transitioning Genders” (p. 233,234) created by Rabbi Elliot Kukla. Rabbi Kukla provides the outline and background for the blessing as well as why certain Hebrew was used. For example, the root avar was used and Kukla explains that this root “has multiple layers of meaning within Judaism. Most literally it means to physically cross over, however, it also implies spiritual transformation in High Holiday prayers.” Kukla goes on to remind us that “In Modern Hebrew, this same root is used to form the word maavar, which means to transition genders.” The blessing has three parts.

            The translation of the blessing is as follows:

Blessed are You, Eternal One our God, Ruler of time and space, the Transforming One to those who transform/transition/cross over (Ha’ma’avir l’ovrim)

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of time and space who has made me in God’s image.

Blessed are You, Eternal One our God, Ruler of time and space, who has kept us alive, and sustained us and helped us to arrive at this moment.

            The power and relevance of ritual continues to provide support and a link to the historical chain of Jewish life and tradition. The ability to re-imagine old rituals and blessings and to create new ones that speak to new life situations continues to be a characteristic of an evolving and dynamic religious tradition. Our class on New Rituals for New Life Stages shines a light on this wave of creativity that we are now experiencing. We welcome examples that you may have created as we emerge into a new world that calls for the genius of Jewish tradition and thought.


Rabbi Richard F. Address


  1. Wow! It somehow never occurred to me that there would be some Jewish people – even some who regularly read JSA – who struggle to accept those among us who are gay, trans or bisexual. I suppose that was foolish. Given our history of persecution and intolerance I would hope that we would not do unto others what was done,and still is to us! What is it,I wonder,about the fear or hatred of those who are “different”?

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